Marv Davidov: Still an activist after all these years


At 77 years old, Marv Davidov, who calls himself a “non-violent revolutionary”, is a celebrated local hero. With 55 years of grassroots activism under his belt, Davidov is familiar with picketing, sit-ins and handcuffs. As the RNC nears and protestors count down the days, we spoke with Davidov, a professor of nonviolence at St. Thomas University, about his lifelong dedication to nonviolent protest.

“I write good letters from prison,” says Davidov, who has been arrested over 50 times for acts of civil disobedience.

Davidov began a lifelong fight for social justice during the Civil Rights Movement when he joined the Freedom Riders and continued his activism during the Vietnam era through protest and draft resistance.

Life as an Activist
If you’d like to spend more time with Marv Davidov, check out this three-part video interview:
“There’s only one way to take your name off the list. You have to publicly resist. … You have an obligation to do something. Otherwise you’re a fucking sellout.”

“Nonviolence is a technique that can win social change with a minimum loss of life.”

“The problems that we have taken on are enormous. Therefore, you have to learn to pace yourself so you don’t get burned out.”

Expect a few laughs along the way. As Davidov’s friend and fellow-activist, Sister Rita McDonald, says, “If you don’t keep laughing, you’ll die of seriousness and it’s a bad disease.”

Davidov is best known for his work as the founder of the Honeywell Project, a nonviolent, Minnesota-based protest group that fought with the Honeywell Corporation in Minneapolis for two decades to end the company’s production of military products during the Vietnam war.

With such an impressive activist’s resume, Davidov has become a go-to man on how to successfully plan and carry out a non-violent protest.

In 1992 Davidov received a call from union workers at the Normandy Hotel in Minneapolis. The union members had been protesting a lockout at the hotel for more than a year with little success.

Davidov and other activists from the Honeywell Project agreed to hold workshops to train the union members and officials in nonviolent techniques.

“I didn’t devise the strategy,” says Davidov, “I brought it out of them. ” With a few phone calls, Davidov brought together several other civil rights groups for a sit-in at the Normandy Hotel.

Three weeks later Daviov was informed of the union’s success: all charges were dropped against those arrested during the sit-in, every union member that was locked out of the hotel was asked to return, and thousands of dollars in lost wages during the lockout were paid back to the employees. After hearing the good news, Davidov went down to the Normandy to share a drink with some of the union members he had helped.

“I’ve always had a feeling ever since I was a conscious human being that some things are right and some are wrong, you have to stand up and do something,” said Davidov.

In response to the upcoming RNC, Davidov gave some words of encouragement to the hopeful protestor: “We can’t do everything now, but we sure as hell can try to change the nature of capitalism.”

Cass Sanford is a student at Mount Holyoke College and an intern with the Twin Cities Daily Planet. James Sanna is a freelance writer and an intern covering education issues for the Daily Planet. Email They interviewed Marv Davidov together, with Cass Sanford writing the article and James Sanna editing the video.